I don’t usually like “slice of life” comics. There, I said it. Slice of life comics can be the most boring, insipid, trite works you’ll ever read. Unless they’re done right. Wrong Way: An American Punk Story #1 does it right.
What makes a story work, especially in comics? What hooks the reader? In my opinion it’s story plain and simple. The story in Wrong Way is engaging, the plot is has depth. It’s not your run-of-the-mill “my hard life in the record store” stuff.
Reviewing comics means that you see a ton of every type of story, and every type of problem. I’ve seen books so packed with story that they need paragraphs of exposition to the point that it’s less a comic and more an illustrated novel. Then at times we get what amount to sketch books, really beautiful art without much story to tie it all together.
Wrong Way doesn’t suffer from either problem. The (slightly) fictionalized episode from the author’s life is told well, the trivialities are kept to a minimum and the plot moves along smoothly. The art is cartoony but solid and the style choice fits the narrative well.
From page one you’re up to your armpits in Trey’s life and you know immediately it’s not a happy one. There’s no over arching tragedy, at least none we’ve seen yet, it’s just 24 pages of Trey and his girlfriend Madison going to Trey’s parent’s house for Thanksgiving in 2011. But you can feel it, the slow build towards some reveal. And I can’t wait to see what it is.
Trey is a cartoonist, a working illustrator, and that doesn’t seem to sit well with those around him but what you feel from Trey is that sad resignation so many of us feel when those who should be our closest allies just aren’t. We see Trey cross from that resigned state right through to anger when he’s pushed too far, and it’s quite cathartic to watch, still saddening but definitely cathartic too.
One of the other pleasant surprises was a fairly uncommon and bold choice for the art. The book is in black and white, but the flashbacks of Trey’s life we’re treated to are in color. This is something I hadn’t seen before. In retrospect it made me think that maybe the main story isn’t in 2011. It’s a great way to guide the reader. Don’t just take my word for it though, it’s a great storytelling method and one you’ll want to check out for yourself.
As you know from previous reviews I try not to read ahead of a first issue, I don’t like to hear too much more than what’s on the page. I noticed a summary at the end of the book and I spoiled a bit of what’s to come by skimming it but I tried not to have that come through in my review. I’ll leave the spoilers out in the hopes that you like your comics recommended but not overly summarized.
What hooks a comic book reader? Story. Interesting art. And Wrong Way has both. Grab your copy on comixology.com and in select shops this month (Oct 26th) from CAE Studios. At Megacon on the 28th-30th? Stop by Martin Dunn’s table and get your copy in person!